Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 8 Primary Election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities will be if elected.
The following came from Walter Ritte, Democratic candidate for state House District 13, which includes Haiku, Hana, Kaupo, Kipahulu, Nahiku, Paia, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai and Molokini. The other Democratic candidate is Lynn DeCoite.
1. Hawaii has been deeply affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Perhaps the biggest impact is to the economy and the tourism industry, which has been Hawaii’s biggest economic driver. Do you think state leaders have handled the response to the virus effectively, including the approach to testing and health care as well as the stay-at-home orders that have caused serious economic harm? What would you have done differently?
The economy is on pause, many have and will suffer. It is an opportune time to reflect and examine the good, the bad and the ugly. The driving question is what do we “need” vs. what do we “want,” and the costs and affordability to our limited resources to provide the answers.
The canary in the mine is at a tipping point, we need to choose carefully with our obligations to the future generations. Major change is at our doorstep.
2. The state budget is facing record shortfalls. How would you balance the budget? What would you cut? What would you protect?
I do not know what the budget looks like, but the answer to question No. 4 gives you a clue to my attitude. Equal treatment is important.
3. What do you think should be done to diversify the economy? What would you do as an elected official to make that happen?
Invest in aloha aina (from protecting and planting our forest to controlling the invasives on our reefs), those jobs will make Hawaii resilient! I would commit my time and staff to do everything possible to diversify Hawaii’s economy.
4. Are you satisfied with the current plans to pay for the state’s unfunded liabilities? If not, how would you propose to meet pension and health obligations for public workers? Would you support reductions in benefits including in pension contributions for public employees in light of virus-related budget shortfalls?
Like the man says, “We are all in this together!” Reductions, shortfalls and obligations should be shared equally by all.
5. The state’s virus response effort has exposed deep rifts within the top levels of government, including between the Legislature and Gov. David Ige. He will be in office two more years, so what would you do to ensure public confidence in Hawaii’s government officials and top executives?
I will be new in government. I have no “rifts” with government officials or top executives.
I am smart enough to know one vote does not create legislation. Survival during these threatening times calls for unity.
6. Recent deaths of citizens at the hands of police are igniting protests and calls for reform across the country, primarily aimed at preventing discrimination against people of color. How important do you see this as an issue for Hawaii? What should be done to improve policing and police accountability throughout the state? Do you support police reform efforts such as mandatory disclosure of misconduct records by police agencies and adequate funding for law enforcement oversight boards that have been established in recent years?
I support openness and disclosure in government and in our police department.
7. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Yes, I strongly support.
8. Hawaii’s public records law mandates that public records be made available whenever possible. Gov. David Ige suspended the open government laws under an emergency order during the pandemic. Do you agree or disagree with his action? What would you do to ensure the public has access to open meetings and public records in a timely fashion?
I disagree with the governor’s suspension. Public access and voice is at the heart of what makes government successful. I will use my office and staff to provide public access and organize others to do the same. I will introduce legislation to do the same.
9. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs? How big of a priority is this for you?
Along with a pandemic we are having a climate catastrophe. Hawaii is the canary in the mine, we will die first, then the vast continents. We are dangerously close to the “tipping point” in many of our natural resources on land and in the sea.
We need to create jobs that will enhance our natural resources and curtail this dangerous extraction economy.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
District 13 is “country,” the best Hawaii has to offer, covering four islands (east Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe). Our lifestyle is constantly under attack by the corporate extraction visionaries looking for more profits, windmills, coal electric plants, solid waste sites, tourist getaways, water wars, etc. I will organize my district to protect and enhance.
11. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, from outdated technology to economic disparity. If you could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, to build on what we’ve learned and create a better state, a better way of doing things, what would you do? Please share One Big Idea you have for Hawaii. Be innovative, but be specific.
Land and water are the most valuable and limited resources we need to protect and enhance here in the middle of the Pacific. Vast continental values have given birth to a wasteful and dependency way of life.
Tourism is killing the goose that lays golden eggs. Hawaiian values, governance, norms, traditions and history lay a solid proven foundation for a resilient independent life for these islands. We need to listen to the voices of the Hawaiians and their ability for survival with little resources, but an unshakeable foundation of aloha.
We need to have two economies, a subsistence economy and a cash economy. Nature is not only amazing and beautiful, but has an unlimited ability to feed our people. Aloha aina is the foundation of our job creations.